Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

Advice…People give you more goddamned useless advice. “Now, when you retire, you should…” “When I retired I had a lot of fun doing…” Bullshit, you don’t know me; you don’t know what would or would not please me, so please, please, please, keep your advice.

I never said that of course. People think they’re doing you a favor by telling you what worked for them; what made them happy. They’re well-intentioned, it’s true, but retirement or the mere thought thereof is sufficiently traumatic. It’s worse, I suppose, if there is some kind of policy that says one has to retire at a certain age. In my own case, I left voluntarily when I was just over 63, recognizing that if I had to wait for two years, I would either have been fired or jailed for assault. I didn’t care for the person that replaced my boss, and I’m the type who tends to speak his mind, ergo, things would not have gone well…for him or for me.

The only good bit of advice that I ever received concerning retirement was this: “Be sure you have something to do that you can do for the rest of your life.” It’s simple and it’s the best advice anyone could ever give. Whatever “it” may be, one should have experimented with it prior to retirement. Few things would have made me happier than to see some parts of the world that my son had spoken of but I knew long before retirement that Florence, Paris, and several other cities would be out of the question. When you have bad knees and a back that’s been through three surgeries, you will, if you’re smart, forget about extensive travel. Documentaries and computer research may not be the same thing, but they can serve a very useful purpose, and if you try hard enough, they’ll fill the bill. Taking up a sport in retirement can only cause frustration and has the potential for injury that is an unnecessary risk. If one is already committed to golf or tennis, great, but to take it up after one retires is a questionable decision.

One of the most interesting things about retirement lies in the question, “How long will I live in my retirement?” If one retires because of illness, great, you have some idea of how long you’ll smell the roses before you’ll smell the roots; if not, it’s a guessing game. Based on my own history, I wouldn’t have bet on anything beyond a few years. Things do have a way of changing as we all know, and I’ve been retired now for damn near 20 years…who’d evah have thunk it? If I was to give advice to anyone about this facet of life, I’d say, “Plan to live to 100; anything more than that’s a bonus; anything less is probably what you were thinking in the first place.” As Dr. Wayne Dyer writes in his book, Your Erroneous Zones, “Look over your shoulder; you have a constant companion. For want of something better, call it your own death. You can keep looking over your shoulder, in which case death will catch up to you more quickly, or you can forget that death is even back there and just plunge ahead.” It’s wonderful advice from a man who appears to know of what he speaks.

Now I’m doing the same thing that I cursed in the first sentence of this little essay. Therefore, let me add this: My advice is just as useless as the next person’s. What I tell you is what has worked for me; you may well say, “Yuck, what an asshole; I would never do that stuff,” and that’s fine, but, and it’s a major but, it is imperative that you not sit back on your ass and watch television all day. This will kill you probably faster than anything. Your body goes to pot; you get into the snack thingie, and the next thing you know, diabetes comes a calling. I became a member of a gym. In addition to the physical exercise, I’ve made a number of friends. They are people with diverse backgrounds and they have become my teachers. I’ve learned philosophy from a man who was the headmaster at a private school and who still teaches there. I’ve learned about plumbing from a man who has his own company. I’ve learned travel first hand from a woman who travels all over the world and returns to share her experiences. The learning tree at the gym has more branches than one can count…and it’s like a “workout classroom.”

I’ve also learned the joys of gardening from my companion, Juli. We have both flowers and vegetables, and although the growing season is short in New England, there is plenty of time for salad-makings, including lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, radishes, and croutons…of course you don’t grow croutons, ya damned fool…I was just testing you.

Writing has been a wonderful outlet. There are over 950 essays on this site. Some are pretty bad; others, at least in my alleged mind, aren’t half bad. The two in which I take great pride are She is Gone and The Final Epitaph. While they won’t win any Pulitzer or Peabody Awards, I’d like to think that they show some depth of thinking on my part. Therefore, if you find the idea of writing about your own experiences or any piece of fiction with which you can have some fun, go to it!

If you happen to be a reader, get a Kindle or some other tablet.  Sure, turning pages and the smell of the paper are great, but the Kindle or Nook are lighter and carry more books than you’ll probably read in a lifetime. Pick up a craft; real men can do cross stitch and latch hook and lapidary [look it up].

Retirement means, as a friend told me, that you’ll be able to spend more time looking at the useless catalogs and second class mail addressed directly to you or just to ‘resident.’ It also means that you can now take the time to smell those flowers everyone used to tell you to do when you were working. They do smell pretty darned good. Whatever you elect to do, keep busy, have more than you can accomplish, and listen to a few good jokes every day. Laughter is food for the soul so laugh often and laugh ‘til you cry!

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Writing about something is not the same as knowing about something. I have always admired good reporting as well as good fiction. John Powers of The Boston Globe was a hell of a writer when he was covering sports. John is a huge man, towering over me, but his insight into what took place at almost any sporting event made the reader feel that he or she was actually in the arena, not as a spectator but as a participant. My dear late friend, Bob Parker, was a wonderful fiction writer who drew the reader in from the first sentence and kept the reader enthralled until the last period was place.

I am about as far from a John Powers or Robert Parker or any of the wonderful writers we read on a daily basis. Like many of you, I struggle to gain and maintain the reader’s interest. It shows in that, if really lucky, I have two or three readers a day. It’s an ego thing, and I’m the first one to admit it.

Think about everything that is happening in the world today. We still have stupidity in Washington, with a President who feels he can do no wrong…and he’s wrong; a Congress now controlled by a single party, but I don’t see much taking place other than the Keystone Pipeline which is just going to line a few more pockets of the one percent; our judicial branch is, at best, confused about which issues belong before them and which should be left to the states for a final decision.

On the world front, we have the horrible executions of the French satirists at Charlie Hebdo and the assassination of four police officers by known radicals who were allowed to walk the streets freely and who got the martyrdom that they desired after their horrible onslaught. Sure, I could do my research online and read everything there is to read…like over one million articles, most of which are as accurate as would be teats on a bull, but that doesn’t give one the right to put together an accurate Reader’s Digest condensed version. Perhaps the most odious and despicable post-episodic thing taking place now is the race between al Qaeda and ISIS over who takes the “credit” for committing this hideous act. Is it fodder for the writer in me? By writing about this crime, I merely lend credence to the fact that no one, anywhere in the world, at any time, is safe from these half-crazed lunatics who are exercising their childhood fantasies of killing with no more respect for the beliefs of true Muslims and the Quran than the Bible-thumping idiots of the Westboro Baptist Church have in their beliefs about Christianity.

So what is left for me, in the few years I have remaining, to garble about? Should I talk about the 2016 race to become the next sucker in the White House? I have finally – gad, but it took a long time – figured out why smart people don’t run for president…their egos are not large enough, or as Clint Eastwood once put, “A man just has to know his limitations.” The really smart person allows the puppet to become the titular head and then the puppet-masters, eg, Citibank, the pharmaceutical lobbyists, the farm folk, and several others sit back and tug on a few strings to get the puppet to do their bidding. It’s wonderful to sit at the computer and gaze into the crystal ball. The Republican Party is firmly convinced that the next puppet will be from the GOP, thereby giving both the executive and legislative branches to a group of people who care little for the average American and a great deal for the one-percenters. After all, it’s the one-percenters who write the bills they pass and keep their bank accounts growing. And, what the hell, should a Democrat – by some miracle of God – attain the exalted puppet-post, it will merely be four or eight more years of gridlock. With gridlock, nothing gets done; the press has a field day; and late night comics rub their hands together in glee. While I consider myself an independent voter, I have to admit that someone like Chris Christie of New Jersey could really shake the old-time-DC-boys up; in addition to which, he probably knows where to get rid of the bodies….lots of swampland in New Jersey.

The recent story of the loving son is not something that you find every day. Could one invent such a thing? Perhaps if I was a more creative writer it could happen. However, I’m not that desperate to build a readership. That was just one of those poignant moments that had to be set to paper, and I was honored to have the opportunity to do so…my thanks to those who commented. The opposite of that situation was viewed by Juli yesterday. “Behind you is a mother and son,” she said. “Neither has stopped texting since they sat down.” Of course, we had no idea if they were texting one another, but my bet is that was not the case. Kind of sad, isn’t it? Can you imagine saying to one of your adult children, “Let’s go to lunch and leave our smart phones in the car.” Be the fastest goddamned lunch on record. Yes, I could write about my view on technology (said he, pounding away at the keyboard) but I don’t even know the vernacular for today’s techno-geek…tough to fall behind the times like this.

Well, I’ve almost reached my thousand word limit so to you, my reader (hopefully with an ‘s,’ I bid you a wonderful winter without falls or flu; without slipping and sliding; without icicles or idiots. If you have young children, I hope you will enjoy sledding with them at the local hill. The bumps will be a bit rougher than you may remember, but what the hell, you’ll have wonderful memories when you recall the day over a cup of hot chocolate…don’t forget the whipped cream!

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Recognizing fully that there are approximately seven billion people on earth who are more intelligent than I, far be it for me to suggest or dictate possible foreign policy decisions to those in my own nation who are in a temporary, at best, position to do so. It seems somewhat as ridiculous as attempting to tell General Motors how to make an ignition switch for their vehicles or how to tell American tourists which mountains to climb in the Middle East. In other words, speak well of what you know well and speak not of which you know nothing.

That having been said, I would propose that Congress begin impeachment proceedings against President Obama if he sends one soldier, sailor, marine, airman or woman, coast guardsman or woman, or even a member of the Boy/Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, or member of the 4-H into harm’s way in the Middle East before he clearly, articulately, and demonstrably proves well beyond the shadow of anyone’s doubt that we have national interests at stake in that region other than the protection of our oil interests or the interests of the so-called one percent. Please, do not tell me in the vaguest of terms that terrorists will use bases in the Middle East to plan and carry out attacks on our nation. I will not believe you. If you believe that to be the case, strengthen the protection of our borders at home; increase the use of HUMINT and other intelligence-gathering resources abroad, and devote greater resources to the same type of attacks that the terrorists carry out, i.e., sneak attacks on their targets before they can carry out their attacks on our targets.

It’s an entirely new era of warfare into which we have entered and America is lagging well behind the curve in terms of how it should be fought. Remember the days of the Napoleonic wars when great armies would face each other on the battlefield and exchange fire? Then, when the soldiers of King George III attempted to engage the “American Rabble” [note the capital ‘R’ please}, they were rudely shocked by the guerilla tactics of the Patriots. Those tactics plus planned operations such as D-Day, Operations Overlord, King Too, Charger, Casanova became the way to fight. What about civilians? Well, insofar as possible, America and its allies attempted to respect and reduce civilian casualties with noted exceptions. Today things are different. The people who are America’s enemies today prefer to use civilians because they are aware of America’s horror at seeing non-combatants used, abused, and slaughtered. Our enemies don’t care who they kill as long as they, the dead, don’t believe the way they, the terrorists, happen to believe on that particular day. Politely, we used to call it tribal warfare; it is not. ISIS or whatever the hell they are calling themselves are nothing more than a gang; no better than the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, the Aryan Brotherhood, the Michigan Militia, or the Wah Ching. They proclaim to be religious jihadists, but that, I believe, is merely an excuse to kill others unlike themselves.

In 1961, President Kennedy stated that we were sending “advisors” to someplace called Vietnam. It wasn’t a popular decision, but we trusted Jack the war hero to do what was right. The advisors were followed by more advisors and then marines and soldiers who weren’t “advisors,” but who were right in the thick of things. The guys who fought and died in that war were patriots; make no mistake about that. The reason they were asked to fight, I regret to say, were never clearly spelled out. As a consequence, many people back in the states didn’t understand and blamed those who fought and died as much as they blamed future administrations. I didn’t like him and didn’t vote for him, but thanks be to God for Richard Nixon’s intelligence in ending that war that claimed over 58,000 American lives.

Now, this current President – for whom I voted twice – who has nothing to lose because he can’t run again is talking about sending 275-300 “advisors” and Special Forces to “train” Iraqi forces. When do the “advisors” and “trainers” become companies, regiments, battalions, and armies who shed blood? When might we reach the point of saying, “We need more young men and women so by executive order, we’re reinstating selective service?” That is, perhaps extreme, but maybe extreme is what is required to wake up the American people to the fact that our people are dying and the only thing we’re told is “…because it’s in our national interest.” Dammit, give me specifics, not glittering generalities, because right now, I’m thinking that your national interests are not my national interests nor are they in the national interests of those mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters who have gold star flags hanging in their front windows.

If Iraq divides into three states, we all know what will happen. The most war-like state will soon absorb the other two. They will then, in all likelihood absorb Syria and move on Iran. The United Nations will condemn them and they won’t give a damn. The Israelis will fight them and eventually use a nuclear weapon to defeat them, or perhaps by that time, the war-like state will have nuclear weapons and the world’s Armageddon will have come about. Only at that point will some sage declare, “It’s Obama’s fault for not sending in “advisors” and “trainers,” and once more, I will have been proven wrong…but it won’t really matter to me; I’ll be dead.

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The nation is more than 5,000 years old. It’s been fought over, pissed on, divided and subdivided. It’s been invaded by more conquerors than any of us can begin to imagine. And America, in its naïveté thought that they we, a nation formed by immigrants from all over the world, with our less than 400 years of experience and only one civil war thought we could bring a lasting democratic form of government to Iraq? What the hell kind of arrogance is that? Better yet, what kinds of stupidity is that?

America is a developed, highly technological, and somewhat futuristic nation. In parts of Iraq, they still stone people to death or cut off a limb. In its worst gangster days, Americans killed members of other gangs. In Iraq, if there is a feud, one kills not only the offending party but the entire family…mother, father, sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, nephews, and nieces. Why…Because they want no one left to ever come after members of their family. I don’t know about you, but that to me is just a wee bit obsessive. In America, we can’t remember who our BFF was a year ago. In Iraq, they remember offending remarks or actions that go back thousands of years.

When we went to war to remove the dictator Saddam Hussein, did we honestly believe that we were doing them a favor? If we did, it was even greater naiveté plus stupidity on our part. The pot of humanity is always at the boil in the Middle East. Are we so ignorant that we haven’t seen that during our brief history? Have our ambassadors and various secretaries of state had their collective heads buried so far in the sands of the Middle East that they haven’t understood the mentality that pervades the region? Forget the few civilized members of the population in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, for while the few are trying to modernize their countries, the many are at war with both the few and with other ‘tribes.’ That’s what they are…tribes. Only in this case, the tribes have access to modern weapons and are not afraid to use them. They are not even afraid to strap explosives to their bodies and kill themselves if it means they can gain an advantage over another tribe or another invader, an infidel if you will.

Being religious is one thing; being a radical religionist is something quite different. The people to whom America and its developed country allies are trying to bring peace and harmony are completely unaware of the meaning of either of those words. When we pull our troops out of Afghanistan, do we believe that radical Muslims won’t attack Kabul, Kandahar, Heart, or Gardez? How stupid can the leadership of America be?

“It is in our national interest to remain in Afghanistan,” says President Obama. “We must invade Iraq because they have weapons of mass destruction that could be used against us,” said President Bush. Both statements were bullshit; pure unadulterated, straight from the butt bullshit! I find it impossible to agree with Fox military analyst, Retired General Dr. Robert Scales, when he insists that we must stay in the area to prevent chaos and to keep an eye on Iran. Why, why must we do this? We have satellites; we should be growing our HUMINT; we should not be sacrificing the lives of young American men and woman simply to support corrupt administrations that we put in place and that are attempting to bleed American dollars from a budget that could be far better spent on home projects.

If we stay in the Middle East for any reason, any reason at all, we are making a mistake. There are enough people in the countries I’ve named who hate America, Americans, and everything for which we stand that the jihadists will never quit. Hell, they’ll never quit anyway. All we have done is to provide them with the weapons they can use to carry on their wars…and we gave ‘em the good stuff, too!

While it is difficult for most civilized people to believe that anyone would choose to live under a code such as that proposed by Shariah Law, particularly females, we should not forget that it wasn’t until 1839 that women in America were allowed to hold property; that their rights were subsumed to their husbands before that time. Today, we talk of equal rights for women in this country when we all know that equal doesn’t mean equal at all. Therefore, if the radical Muslims wish to fight and create a state where the laws of Mesopotamia and Methuselah once reigned supreme, fine, let them have it. Better that they should kill one another and wipe out their entire race of people than to have them continually pissed at American invaders or corrupt government in their own lands.

Am I saying that America should just pull all of their troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan? Sure; why not; I don’t see how things could get any worse. Children won’t get educated in the area; women will be treated like crap; men will get pissed at their neighbor for stealing some goat’s milk and they’ll feud over that until one family or the other is eliminated; there will be chaos that Ayatollah’s won’t be able to control. The nations will be composed of the haves and have not’s – oh, gee, that sounds like today’s America – and the anger will eventually be turned back toward the United States. It’s at that point that we unleash our technological fury in such a manner that not one city, town, village, or person remains alive. Will that start WWIII? I rather doubt it because enough cooler heads will have seen the idiocy of the Iraqi and Afghani immorality and agree that strong action was demanded. “What about the United Nations,” someone will doubtless ask. Certainly the UN has done some wonderful things to help nations that have evidenced a desire to be helped, but there comes a point when nations that demonstrate their unwillingness to follow a peaceful path to development must either be abandoned or destroyed. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have proven so inept in putting honest governments in place; have demonstrated a total inability to control their own people; have sucked so much blood from the young men and women of other UN nations that it’s time the UN cast them aside and let them destroy themselves as part of a natural order.

President Obama, please, please, please, get those soldiers, marines, airmen and women, as well as naval personnel out of the area and brought back home. We don’t need any more gold stars in windows. Let’s concentrate on what needs to be done in America for Americans. You have a year and a half left; let this be your legacy…you brought home the troops.

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Have you ever been sitting on your bed, perhaps in the morning after you’ve been awake for a few moments; perhaps later in the day when you’re fresh from the shower; or perhaps even when you’re in whatever it is you wear to bed – don’t tell me; I don’t want you to be sharing TMI –  and you’re just about ready to turn off the light after a long day…you know what I’m saying…and someone sits down beside you? You turn…but there’s no one there. You felt someone sit down. Sometimes, if you stare very carefully, you can even see where the blanket, coverlet, quilt, or just sheet, seems to be just the tiniest bit depressed…you know that they – whoever he or she might be – is there. You can’t put your finger on it, but there is a sense of a being there. Has it ever happened to you?

If you have a pet – dog or cat, anyway – have you ever noticed them staring at nothing…just staring? We have an overhead fan between the kitchen and family room. It’s pleasant in the summer, but we don’t use it in the winter time. However, our last dog, Vikki, and our present dog, Widget, often stare in the direction of the fan. They don’t bark; the fan’s not moving; they just stare. There are times when their eyes will move a bit, as though whatever they see is going to another part of the room. It’s exceedingly spooky, but it has happened to us on numerous occasions.

Am I an amateur spirit hunter or ghost seeker? No, I am not, nor do I even pretend to believe in ghosts. I’ve never seen a spirit of any kind; felt the presence, yes, but seen with these baby blues, nope. However, I cannot deny things that have happened to cause me to wonder. Recently, I woke rather early…and thoroughly. So I left the bed, performed the morning ablutions, got dressed for the gym and had my apple juice and banana. It was much too early to actually ‘go’ to the gym, so I sat down to read. I can’t explain what happened next; I’d like to, but I really cannot. Something in my head told me to stay where I was and not to go to the gym. You have to understand that I love the gym, but something told me, “Don’t go!” When Juli got up at 7, I was still reading.

“Go to the gym?” she asked.

“No,” I answered. “Something told me to stay home today.”

She was fine with that, but I was a bit confused. The next day, I was talking to a fellow gym rat. Now this man teaches philosophy, was the headmaster of a private school, and is one savvy fella. I told him what had happened, and that I was bothered by it.  His response was a bit frightening.

“Be happy you stayed home,” he said. “I walk the dog every morning at four. Yesterday was the worst morning of the winter. There was black ice everywhere. I fell on my butt a couple of times, so we shortened the walk and went home.”

Was that a spirit voice telling me to stay home? Did I, subconsciously, just want to blow off my workout? Would something bad have happened if I had attempted to go to the gym? Am I over thinking this entire episode? Can anyone give a definitive answer?  I can, and the answer is, “I don’t know.” What the hell, it’s an answer. All I know for certain is (a) I stayed home; (b) it’s not my nature to blow off a workout because of how good It makes me feel; and (c) evidently, the roadways were extremely treacherous that morning.

Since that episode, I have done a little bit of net surfing regarding ghosts, spirits, guardian angels, etc., and I find that close to forty percent of Americans believe in some supernatural being that is a part of their life. Oh, sure, there are some really kooky sites; they generally wind up wanting money if you want to “explore further your angel’s background,” or words to that effect. There are others that appear to be more informative and raise questions that I sure as hell can’t answer. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have beliefs in guardian angels who God charges with the lifetime care of humans. Ancient Greek philosophy, for example, claimed that guardian spirits were assigned to each person for life. This was also true of Zoroastrianism.  In the Bible and in the Torah, there are numerous references to the angels that protect the living.  In one source on Islam, it is noted, “The Qur’an says that God has made more angels than human beings, since groups of angels guard every individual person among the billions of people on Earth: ‘For each person, there are angels in succession, before and behind him. They guard him by the Command of Allah [God],’ (Al Ra’d 13:11).”

It is said that everything happens for a reason. I have always believed that I am on earth, was given life because God had a purpose for me. I’ve said this before on a number of occasions. I’ve also said that when I complete my task, I will go home – wherever that happens to be. On the other hand, maybe I’ve been given a certain amount of time to complete whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing, and if I can’t get it done, I’ll get called back and someone else will complete ‘my’ task.

The one thing of which I’m certain is that someone or something has sat on the bed, been in the kitchen and family room, and has brushed by me in the hallway. I’m paying more attention to things like that these days. When I feel “he, she, it,” or “them,” I simply say, “If you’re from God, then you can stay; if not from God, please go away.” Oh, and yes, I still throw salt over my left shoulder, pick up pennies from the sidewalk, and do other things that contribute to the belief by my friends that I’m absolutely nuts.

What do you think?

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Recognizing that you have better things to do with your time I thought that you’d perhaps like a history lesson regarding St. Patrick’s Day. After all, tomorrow is March 17th, and on that particular day the pure Irish, half-Irish, and the ‘wannabe’s’ break out their green  and pretend they understand Gaelic or Celtic greetings. For you Bostonians, that’s not the Boston Celtics; this ‘C’ is pronounced like a ‘K.’ So when someone greets you with “Céad Míle Fáilte,” you may return their “one hundred thousand welcomes” with “Sláinte” – to your health – or you can prove you’re not really Irish by merely staring like the damned fool you’re proving yourself to be!

First off, let’s get a few things straight. St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland wasn’t even Irish. I’m not certain I’d want to say that to an uninformed Irishman who’s had one too many at O’Hara’s Doyle’s, Murphy’s, Finnegan’s or even someplace trying to pass itself off as “The Irish Pub.”  Patrick was actually born in Britain nearly the end of the Fourth Century when Britain was still part of the Roman Empire. He was kidnapped by a group of Irish raiders when he was 16 and was held prisoner for six years. According to history.com, it was “During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.” Eventually, he escaped the Irish heathens – being half Irish I can say that; if I was one hundred percent Irish, I could say, “damned heathens,” but I’m not so I won’t.

Devoutly religious, Patrick believed in a dream which told him to return to Ireland as a missionary. Following his ordination as a priest, that’s exactly what he did. His charge was to minister to the small group of Christians living on the island and to convert the pagans to Christianity. This contradicts the statement that Patrick actually introduced Christianity to Ireland. It’s not dissimilar to saying that he chased the snakes out of Ireland; there never were any snakes. The water around the island was too cold for any to swim and what damned fool would bring snakes to such a heavenly spot?

In his attempts at converting those who were not Christian, Patrick incorporated some of the nature-based pagan symbols into his teachings.  He celebrated Easter with bonfires because pagans used fire to appease or to honor their gods. He also placed a ‘sun’ on the traditional Christian cross. The Celtic cross can still be seen wherever Irish immigrants are found.

Patrick, not yet a saint, died on March 17tth, AD. For the most part he was forgotten but Irish storytellers built his history into the tale it has become today. Perhaps that was where the term ‘blarney’ originated although if you drown him in a few pints o’ Guinness, most Irishmen can spin you a pretty good yarn or two.

Since I can’t say it better, let me quote history.com once more…“The Irish culture centered around a rich tradition of oral legend and myth. When this is considered, it is no surprise that the story of Patrick’s life became exaggerated over the centuries—spinning exciting tales to remember history has always been a part of the Irish way of life.” So it doesn’t matter if tomorrow you greet a friend with “Beannachtam na Femle Padraig” or “Happy Saint Patrick’s Day,” they both mean the same thing. Enjoy your day.

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Don’t you just hate it when scientists come along and take all the fun out of life? Well, I don’t know about you but I finally decided to satisfy my curiosity and learn which really did come first, the chicken or the egg. I was certain that there would be discussions galore on the Internet and that no concrete conclusion would be reached; after all, scientists have better things to do with their grants than arguing the age old question; you know, they get that million dollar grant to determine if mice can get cancer by eating 200 pounds of sugar a day for six years and important things like that.

I regret to say that I was wrong. The definitive answer according to Science & Tech, a magazine published in both the UK and the USA, scientists “cracked” the problem on July 13, 2010. It scrambles my brain just to think how [over] easy they made it sound. According to these devils, “Researchers found that the formation of egg shells relies on a protein found only in a chicken’s ovaries.” Now I don’t know about you, but I think that they’re getting rather personal when they begin to screw around with a chicken’s ovaries, but then, I didn’t get the grant!

I would be remiss if I did not print the entire article so readers may  view the sunny side of the study so here goes: “The protein – called ovocledidin-17, or OC-17 – acts as a catalyst to speed up the development of the shell.

“This hard shell is essential to house the yolk and its protective fluids while the chick develops inside.

“Scientists from Sheffield and Warwick universities used a super computer to ‘zoom in’ on the formation of an egg.

“The computer, called HECToR and based in Edinburgh, revealed that OC-17 is crucial in kick-starting crystallisation – the early stages of the creation of a shell.

“The protein coverts calcium carbonate into calcite crystals which make up the shell.

“Calcite crystals are found in numerous bones and shells but chickens form them quicker than any other species – creating six grams (0.2oz) of shell every 24 hours.

“Dr Colin Freeman, from Sheffield University’s Department of Engineering Materials, said: ‘It had long been suspected that the egg came first but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first.

“’The protein had been identified before and it was linked to egg formation but by examining it closely we have been able to see how it controls the process.  ‘It’s very interesting to find that different types of avian species seem to have a variation of the protein that does the same job.’

“Professor John Harding, from the same department, said the discovery could have other uses. ‘Understanding how chickens make egg shells is fascinating in itself but can also give clues towards designing new materials and processes,’ he said. ‘Nature has found innovative solutions that work for all kinds of problems in materials science and technology – we can learn a lot from them.’

“The discovery was revealed in the paper Structural Control Of Crystal Nuclei By An Eggshell Protein.”

Frankly, I believe that a super computer has uses other than determining which really came first in this chicken/egg argument, but then, I suppose a grant is a grant is a grant.

If we really want the super computer to help us determine difficult topics, we might ask, “Which came first, man or woman? Which came first, God or the universe? How about a really tough one…If Noah was so smart that he could build an ark for all of the animals [two by two, don’t forget], how could he possibly have been so dumb as to invite a couple of mosquitoes on board…or fleas for that matter?

So, for all of you who I have disillusioned today, I regret the error of my ways; for those of you who feel you can now lord it over those who are ignorant of the facts…ah, stop being such a smartass!

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Muslim true believers have every right to be upset about some film, made by some yahoo’s who are as crazy as any jihadist every thought of being. It’s wrong to be insulting to a true believer’s God, no matter what name he or even she goes by.

Now, that having been said, I’m willing to put up everything I have – the house, the car, the cash – to bet that less than half of the people who killed four Americans in Libya, and the assholes who attacked the American embassies in Egypt, and Yemen were true believers in Allah. They were a goddamned mob, led by a group of terrorists and with a mob mentality that seems far more common in the Middle East than it is anywhere else in the world. These were planned assaults designed to coincide with the week in which September 11th occurred.

You want to kill Americans? That’s fine, but just remember that retaliation can be a bitch. As far as this American is concerned, you have all stepped, once more, across the line between protest and terrorism. It’s fine to catch a few of the planners and quietly eliminate them from earth. They want their 72 virgins or whatever the number is up to now? Great, let’s send them on their way. However, those hangers-on, the joiners, the ones who wouldn’t dare do a damned thing without a mob of similar crazies behind them should also be punished. That bastard who was holding the star from the American flag; we can find out who he is…kill him. Those people on the top of the embassy wall, we have some great television footage of them. They can probably be identified by someone in the Libyan intelligence community…kill them. 

These do not appear to be people with whom one can reason. They understand rocket grenades, AK rifles, and sneak attacks. They say that they understand diplomacy; they lie through their teeth. This is a society – if that’s what one wishes to call it – that does not believe in peaceful coexistence. It’s a warlord society. The culture is not one which promotes democracy; they say they do and then prove on a regular basis that they do not. Where the hell do we get off thinking we can help these people? They-don’t-want-our-help! Jimmy Carter brings Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin together and they sign a peace treaty. What happens next? Sadat is assassinated.

It’s just not worth it for America to continue its efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East. My question to the President, to the members of the military, to the members of the intelligence community is simply this: Do you have terrorist training camps on your radar? We both know the answer to that. Perhaps my reaction is a bit harsh, but it is that the very minute we received word of the attack in Libya, two terrorist camps should have been removed, either by smart bombs or by something less obvious. No press releases; no television footage; just a couple of camps removed. Terrorists will know who was hit and why. We don’t have to brag about it. If the camps were in Libya, so much the better; if not, we are still sending a message.

This country has, for too long a period, attempted to justify its existence to the rest of the world. Let’s get over that erroneous thought process right now. If you slap us, we will hit you. We will no longer play like the scared kid in the schoolyard who wants everyone to be his friend; that usually winds up with no one being the kid’s friend and he gets his ass kicked daily.

Diplomacy is wonderful; it really is. Reasonable people with different views can almost always find a common ground and work their differences out. It’s consensus decision-making. Neither side may be one hundred percent satisfied, but each can live with the decisions upon which they have agreed. Time and time and time again, Middle Eastern nations have demonstrated that this is not the way in which they operate. The Middle East believes it has America in a stranglehold because of oil…and they’re right. We are dependent on foreign oil. So what does that say? Either we develop synthetics or we move away from fossil fuels as a source of blackmail by others.

“It’s not that simple,” you say? Tell that to the coal miner in Pennsylvania who’s till coughing up that black shit after every shift. Tell it to the farmers in Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and Iowa whose crops failed this year because we didn’t know how to prepare for the type of 100-year drought that we’ve seen this year. Tell it to the elderly in Florida and Arizona who have to decide between food on the table and medicine that will keep them alive because Congress has to have its pissing contests about how we should care for our senior citizens.  Tell that to the  twenty-five percent of young children in America who are living in poverty. Sheldon Danziger, the director of the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, said a UNICEF report does a good job of summing up what many economists have believed for a long time. “Among rich countries, the U.S. is exceptional. We are exceptional in our tolerance of poverty.”

“Danziger said he was especially impressed by a figure showing Canada and the U.S. have the same relative child poverty rate — 25.1 The chart also showed that after government taxes, benefits and other social programs, Canada’s child poverty rate drops to 13.1, while America’s barely budges, hovering above 23.1 percent.

“Basically, other countries do more,” he said. “They tend to have minimum wages that are higher than ours. The children would be covered universally by health insurance. Other countries provide more child care.”

With all of the problems that we have in our own backyard, we are supposed to tolerate what some malicious, vicious, ignorant, and arrogant mob does? I don’t think so. I don’t believe democracy will ever fully come to the Middle East. Why should we let it get in the way of where we wish to go?  If they push, we can push harder. It should not and would not lead to total annihilation of the planet. If ham-fisted diplomacy is what is called for, let us not be fearful of using it…oh, and as far as the idiots who made the film that started this whole brouhaha, let’s take them out to the middle of the desert in Egypt or Saudi Arabia, and have them do a film about God and the and the bleached earth He gave to us. A bottle of oil for each of them…oh, yeah!

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Do you suppose this is the way Mitt Romney is trying to throw the election? Certainly his backhanded criticism of London and England’s preparation for the Olympics, and frankly, I’m not certain that he understood that he was being shot down by Prime Minister David Cameron. Then it’s off to Israel where (1) no press was allowed at a private dinner; and, (2) word leaked out that he was sucking up to the Israelis by attacking the culture of the Palestinians. Way to go, Mitt; I can’t imagine what you’ll say to Lech Walesa while you’re in Poland. It’s just a further indication that his familiarity with international relations is somewhere just below the whale crap at the bottom of the ocean and Wile E. Coyote’s chances of catching the Road Runner. According to the Boston Globe, Romney indicated that Israel’s gross domestic product per person is about $21,000, compared with that of Palestinians, “which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,’’ he said at the fund-raising event. In reality Israel’s GDP is $31,000 per person as opposed to $1,500 per person in Palestine.

The distortions of truth by both the Obama and Romney campaigns are not good for America. Both men should realize this, grow up, and intervene with what their campaigners are trying to do. Campaigners,’ gentlemen, have the job of making the opponent look like a simpleton, act like a criminal, and/or behave like a kid in his first whorehouse. Where the hell are Ron Paul and Ross Perot when we need them? I never really agreed with their political views, but at least they stuck to the heart of what we need to hear.

I was happy to see that Congress finally came together and passed a bill that will allow the government to continue to operate for another six months. I’m somewhat surprised that one of those greedy bastards didn’t sneak a provision into the bill that gave them a six percent raise. If something directly affects the members of Congress, they seem to have no trouble “coming together,” but something that affects the rest of the population, such as a jobs bill or health care, becomes so partisan that absolutely nothing is accomplished other than a continuation of the ‘blame game,’ and further polarization of the Congress which in turn leads to greater polarization among the general populace.

For a number of years, I have been comparing the empire that we call America to that of Rome. Just as Rome began as a small city…think America at the time of the Revolutionary War. At its greatest period, the Roman Empire was huge, its expansion coming as a result of alliances and small wars. Like Rome, America expanded through alliances…think France and Spain specifically and through wars, to encompass an entire continental land mass and beyond.

Why did the Roman Empire fall? Wow, now you’re asking me to read the tea leaves, gaze into the crystal ball, or become more of an historian than would ever be possible in a lifetime.  Some would say that Emperor Constantine’s adoption of Christianity was at fault. The empire retained its power through wars and continued alliances. The manner of “Christian religious beliefs and allegiances conflicted with the working of empire. As one friend said to me, “Christianity was a cult out of control.”  In addition, some would say that the rise of Islam as a religion contributed to the fall; gee, does that sound familiar?

There is any number of factors that contributed to the fall of Rome. Many of these same factors appear to be infiltrating the culture of America. The Roman Senators were drawn from the rich and supposedly were advisers on foreign policy, managed to get their hands into the lives of everyday citizens through the decrees that they issued. Today’s Congress has taken it a step further. They pass laws that seem to affect everyone but themselves. For example, their health care package is better than any you or I could get. They are on Social Security when they retire but they have a generous retirement package that most people would envy.

Like Rome, we’re not going to suddenly collapse; it will be a gradual decline. For instance, common people were stuck paying very high taxes, while the rich received large grants and tracts of land that only made them richer; the government was running out of money to pay bills and didn’t even have enough to pay the military. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s something, as I say, that I’ve been pondering for a while.

Anyone who is a student of the Roman Empire, could, I’m certain, draw many more comparisons between Rome and America including incompetent leadership as a cause. We’re lucky; we have history on our side and can learn from it…or can we?

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Here’s some breaking news that ought not to shock the hell out of you…Mississippi is the most religious  state in America. Why am I not surprised? It’s also the state with the highest poverty rate at 21 percent and the lowest median income at $36,850.  It is also known for one of the worst educational systems in the country. Is it any wonder the citizens of Mississippi get to church more often than those in the rest of the country? They have a great to deal to be praying for and this most recent Gallup poll regarding their religiosity is merely providing fuel for the fire.

The results of the poll by Gallup regarding religion in America are that, “America remains a generally religious nation, with more than two-thirds of the nation’s residents classified as very or moderately religious.” Perhaps my perspective is colored then by the Gallup poll noting that the six New England states – Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut – are among the least religious states in the country.

Personally, I believe the Gallup poll to be highly fallacious in its makeup. What are we talking about when we discuss religion? Are we, in fact, talking about the Roman Catholic, Judaic, Mormonism, and various forms of Protestantism?  Is this a measure of how many people go to church on any given weekend or perhaps wish to declare a religious preference for the sake of saying that they are religious? It certainly poses some interesting questions.

Gallup’s results go on to say that those states that are considered to be most religious are also those which tend to vote along more conservative or Republican lines. The Democrats or “leftist liberals” as we have been called by many tend to be in the states that are least religious. In the case of New England, where I happen to reside, I would prefer to believe that because we were among the earliest to be firmly settled, that we have seen religion for what it really is and we have taken up more of a banner of spirituality rather than a dogma that insists we see things only from a single point of view.

Depending on who you read and what you read, the differences between spirituality and religion can be galaxies apart or can be as close as the house next door. I’m not about to read the over two million documents on the Internet that claim to offer enlightenment regarding the differences between the two. Nor do I intend to make this essay the definitive piece regarding those differences.

In religious terms, I know too many people who attend church on a regular basis on Sunday and who will violate the Ten Commandments all week long…not all, and not all at the same time, but I believe you understand what I’m saying. My late wife insisted that we get married in the Roman Catholic Church and the priest insisted that our children be raised in that faith. To use the vernacular of many of today’s teens, my reaction was, “What-evah.” For years I had attended Sunday Services at the Congregational Church in my hometown. I didn’t like it, but it was what the family did on Sunday morning. I believed then and I believe to this day that the minister was a pompous ass who delighted in the timbre of his own voice. I went to mass once with some friends and didn’t understand a damned thing that was being said so that was rather a waste of time. Perhaps if I’d been brought up in the faith, I might have fared somewhat better.

No matter which religion I looked at, it always appeared to me that the ‘leader of the pack,’ when you got right down to it, was saying that his church’s way was really the only way to get to Heaven.  Now, I’m not opposed to you believing that yours is the only way; just don’t try to convince me that it’s the only way. I would prefer to find out for myself, thank you very much.

What I have learned over these past seven plus decades Is that organized religion is often not what many people are seeking. Many of us feel that by living our lives as decent human beings, with all of the frailties and foibles that human beings have, we probably stand a pretty good chance of getting to Heaven. Some of us aren’t even so sure there is such a place or thing; some of us believe that when you die, you die, period; that’s the end of what was once you. I don’t happen to be a part of that latter group but…what the hell, I’m too old to change my ways.

I have often asked the question, “Who is the more religious, the person who attends church on Christmas and Easter only, or the little boy…or man…or girl/woman…whatever, who daily goes to a private place and converses with a rock set on a stone and asks some unknown being or the rock to bring in a good harvest; to make that day’s catch sufficient to supply the entire village; to bring the rains or to stop them…but on a daily basis?” Who? Which one? The answer is that the former is not a religious person but may be very spiritual. The latter is exceedingly spiritual but not very religious. Who is “right?” The better question to be asked might be, “What is right?”

In my mind, and remember, this is only me; religion is a set of rules and regulations that if I follow them faithfully will take me to stand before God and be judged for my behavior while alive. If I am deemed to have been a good follower, I will be granted entrance into Heaven and eternal peace. Spirituality, on the other hand and in my own mind, means that if I obey the laws of society and one other, that I will stand before my God to be judged. Again, if found worthy…etc, etc. That one other law that I must follow is, very simply, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s right, the Golden Rule. We all talk about it, but none of us truly live by it. In our hurry to ‘get ahead,’ we cut corners. We do things that aren’t truly harmful to others, but if ‘others’ did what we have done, we’d be hurt, pained, uncomfortable…you get the picture.

So, Mr. Gallup, don’t tell me that just because I don’t go to church, don’t follow along like a lemming, that I’m not religious. You’re just playing with semantics. I’m just as religious in my own way as all of your Mississippi holy, church-going folks. I and the rest of my New England colleagues just don’t shout it to the world.

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